The name Katutura derives its origin from the treatment meted out to Windhoek’s black residents during the pre-independence era. In conformity with colonial Germany and other European states’ quest for “Lebensraum”, (living space), Africans in Namibia were steadily pushed out of their-hitherto habitats. Those who inhabited arable fields were squeezed out, those who inhabited lands with abundant grazing were eliminated and those who had settled in the vicinity of areas earmarked for industrial development and the whites-only residential space, were pushed to the outskirts. However, they were pushed far enough to provide “Lebensraum” for whites, yet close enough to provide labour to the white men’s residences that were largely planned and established on lands forcefully vacated by blacks. So, the name Katutura came to be coined at fireside chats by elders of the black communities. They reflected on these forceful removals that had become so aggressive and were diligently enforced by the South African apartheid regime in Namibia. Their discussions centered on the question: “Tjiri hapo kamaa tukatura uiriri, matuundurua nai ngapi”? Loosely translated, this means, “Until when are we going to be pushed around, are we ever going to settle and shall we ever have a dwelling place?” The residents of Windhoek’s Old Location or Ou Lokasie coined the name Katutura as they were being forcefully removed from the Old Location to make way for white urbanisation. This action led to the expansion of places such as present-day Pionierspark, Academia and others, to become exclusive white habitats. The removals from Old Location to Katutura were thus not incidental; they were a product of deliberate policies of the time and were executed with precision. When the residents tried to resist, the government killed them in cold blood. At least 11 people were killed and buried in one mass grave on 10 December 1959. From this incident, mayhem and chaos reigned supreme until all were finally pushed to the new township that the black community itself baptised Kututura. Bulldozers moved in to level the houses and community centres of the peoples’ choice to the ground and all got the message that they either had to move to the new township or get out of Windhoek altogether. My friend Clara Bohitile attended primary school at the Roman Catholic school on the outskirts of the demolished township. One day, the children returned from school and, to their shock, their houses were gone with parents nowhere to be found. Trucks were deployed to ferry the children to some central place in the new township and parents had to flock there all night to claim their children. This is how my friend incidentally ended up in Katutura and for the longest time she did not know what had hit her, from where she had dropped into this new place and whatever had happened to the Catholic Church School on the outskirts of the then Ou Lokasie where she had grown up. And for all her life, Clara never could make up her mind as of who to hate and who to bless for the Ou Lokasie ordeal. Many Ou Lokasie dwellers left the township under duress, those who did not see their way in the direction of Katutura left Windhoek altogether. Many, such as the likes of Paramount Chief Hosea Kutako, Sondaha Kangueehi, Dina Tuvare, left Windhoek for Aminuis communal area in the present-day Omaheke Region. This is how Katutura was born. It is a product of sweat and blood and for the longest time, it was hailed by the nation as the mecca of Namibia’s revolution and cradle for united action against the oppressors. Many a revolutionary found it somewhat of a blessing to spend time in Katutura. Political parties emerged strong and mass mobilisation became the order of the day. And each time people of African descent moved residence from Katutura to the whites-only neighbourhoods, there were mixed emotions and grumblings, because it was regarded as somewhat of a let down. Meanwhile, life moved on and in time Namibia’s independence brought about new realities. Services to our city communities have remained disparate and independence has not accounted for much. The best services are reserved for upper-class residential areas and no wonder there has been a steady exodus out of this mecca of Namibia’s revolution and progress. At independence, most of the regular residents moved out in haste to new areas, as if the place was just hit by a natural calamity. The name Katutura has remained a historical symbol of revolution for Namibia, at least in the minds of the many who still associate with the liberation struggle for Namibia. But for the casual observer and many of our born-frees, it may be just another township going through the throws of an ordinary African city, characterised by poverty, vagrancy, crime and virtual lawlessness.
2017-12-20 09:42:27 9 months ago